The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed that a second Arkansas resident has tested positive for Zika virus. This individual recently traveled out of the country to Central America and had a mild case of Zika. The Arkansas Department of Health cautions travelers and women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant to take important steps to guard against Zika transmission.

Aedes aegypti/CDC
Aedes aegypti/CDC

Zika virus is a relatively new disease for the Western hemisphere and has since spread throughout countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean. Zika is spread through mosquito bites and through sexual contact by a man to his sexual partner. According to the CDC, the most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain and red, itchy eyes. Symptoms are usually mild and last several days to a week. Many people who have Zika will experience mild to no symptoms. There is currently no vaccine or treatment for Zika. Travelers to areas where Zika is present should also go to their doctor if they experience any of the symptoms associated with Zika within three to seven days after they return.

Pregnant women are most at risk for complications from the Zika virus because serious birth defects have been reported in children born to women who are infected with the virus. The CDC is studying more about the connection between Zika and children born with these birth defects. In the meantime, the CDC has issued travel guidance for women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant.

“If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, I would advise against traveling to areas infected with Zika if at all possible,” said Dr. Nate Smith, Arkansas Department of Health Director and State Health Officer. “Arkansas has the kind of mosquitoes that carry Zika virus, so mosquitoes here in Arkansas could become infected with the virus if they were to bite someone who has Zika. For this reason, people traveling to countries with Zika should avoid mosquito bites for three weeks after they return.”

This is a change from the original recommendation of avoiding mosquito bites for 10 days after return. As we know more information about Zika virus, ADH expects our recommendations to continue to be updated.

Arkansas residents traveling to Central or South America or the Caribbean, where Zika is present, should take precautions against mosquitoes. The types of mosquitoes that can spread Zika virus live in Arkansas, are aggressive and can bite day or night. Ways to avoid mosquito bites include:

  • Using an insect repellant containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts and trousers.
  • Using air conditioning or window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
  • Reducing the number of mosquitoes inside and outside your home by emptying standing water from containers such as flowerpots or buckets and then covering those receptacles. Mosquitoes can breed in as little amount of water as a bottle cap.

Men who have traveled in an area with Zika virus and have a partner who is pregnant or may become pregnant should use condoms the right way every time they have vaginal, anal, and oral sex, or they should not have sex.

According to the CDC, 346 travel-associated Zika virus cases have been reported from 41 states and the District of Columbia through Apr. 6. Of the 346 cases reported, 32 were pregnant women, 7 were sexually transmitted, and 1 had Guillain-Barré syndrome.